United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee Board chair Susanne Lyons indicated that spectator attendance at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games may be severely curtailed, owing to the continuing public health challenge in China due to Covid-19.
During a call with reporters following the latest USOPC Board meeting, Lyons explained:
“We did learn a lot of lessons particularly as it pertains to the Covid protocols and the like in Tokyo and I would be expecting that at a minimum we would be having similar types of Covid protocols in Beijing, if not even more. …
“In terms of friends and family, I don’t think there’s been an official announcement of any kind about spectators, but it is entirely possible that we will once again have a very limited attendance in Beijing of anyone outside of immediate, operational staff.”
The USOPC is estimating a team size of just about 300 athletes for the Beijing Olympic Winter Games.
USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland noted that there have been a couple of important, off-the-field achievements for U.S. athletes and their families. As for the inability for family and friends of team members to travel to Tokyo, “We were able to host more than 550 athlete friends and family to a once-in-a-lifetime experience, in Orlando and Colorado Springs, to really ensure that our community felt connected from afar. It was quite the celebration back here at home.” USOPC commercial partner Toyota was cited for its special assistance in this program.
This is planned to be done again for Beijing if travel is not allowed to the Games for international spectators.
She also highlighted the increase scope and success of the pilot Athlete Marketing Platform, operated in conjunction with the LA28 organizing committee through the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Properties group. More than 800 athletes have now enrolled, from 53 National Governing Bodies:
“Though this pilot program, athletes accepted more than 1,000 deals that put just over $2.6 million in Team USA athlete’s pockets, a really successful pilot start to this program. We’re excited to build upon it.” That’s an average of about $2,600 per agreement.
Hirshland also noted that the USOPC’s liberalization of Olympic Charter Rule 40, allowing individual athlete sponsors to congratulate their athletes during the Games, saw “430 brands submit creative, compared to only 160 in Rio.”
She emphasized that where in Rio, 99% of the submissions by athlete sponsors were for Olympic athletes and only 1% for Paralympians, “in Tokyo, that ratio was reduced to 9-to-1, demonstrating a huge shift in Paralympic athlete marketing campaigns.”
As for the American team in Tokyo, the USOPC saw a Covid infection rate of less than 0.5%; just two infections were reported during the Games period. With this week’s announcement of required vaccinations (subject to some minor exemptions), the USOPC is trying to eliminate this issue for Beijing as much as possible.
Hirshland noted that “there is strong support for this in our community, including endorsements from both our Athletes Advisory Council and National Governing Bodies Council.” Not much outside comment has come in yet, since the announcement is only days old, but as the mandate does not come into effect until November, there is time to hear from those who disagree.
● Olympic gold medalist and Nassar survivor Aly Raisman slammed USA Gymnastics, the USOPC and the U.S. Center for SafeSport during her testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Lyons replied:
“It’s always very difficult to hear and relive the survivors’ pain, and we all very much were interested at what was said at that hearing last week. We still have tremendous empathy and support for the survivors of the Nassar situation. …
“It’s understandable that athletes would have anger towards the entire system that they believe failed them and we believe we have taken very significant measures over the last three years to try to address athlete safety and to ensure that something like this could never happen again.”
As to SafeSport specifically, Lyons noted that “they’re an independent organization; we are in dialogue with them on numerous issues, but we have not engaged with them specifically on Aly’s comments.”
● The USOPC has had no further communications from the International Olympic Committee regarding its inquiry into the Raven Saunders “protest” following the awards ceremony for the women’s shot put.
The IOC suspended its inquiry in the aftermath of the 3 August death of Saunders’ mother.
For our 743-event International Sports Calendar for 2021 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!